Brother: Ricin not meant to harm others

SAN DIEGO — Vials of the deadly biological agent ricin found last month in a Las Vegas motel room belonged to a man who has been hospitalized with symptoms of ricin contamination, his brother said.

Roger Von Bergendorff was upgraded from critical to fair condition Monday at Spring Valley Medical Center, less than a week after regaining consciousness for the first time since Valentine’s Day.

His younger brother, Erich Bergendorff, said he spoke with his brother Sunday on the telephone for the first time since the ricin was found.

Roger Bergendorff claimed he never had any intention of endangering anyone with the toxin, his brother said.

“He just confirmed that it was not intended for anybody,” said Erich Bergendorff. “It was something that would be used for his own purposes, for self-defense.”

Roger Bergendorff, 57, was questioned by investigators from the FBI and the Las Vegas police on Friday in hopes that he could provide information about the Feb. 28 discovery of the ricin powder and castor beans, from which it is derived.

On Monday, Las Vegas police referred questions to the FBI. Special Agent David Staretz, spokesman for the FBI office in Las Vegas, declined comment.

The FBI, Las Vegas police and state and federal prosecutors in Nevada have refused to discuss whether they plan to file charges against Roger Bergendorff, who had been suffering from respiratory ailments and failing kidneys.

Erich Bergendorff said his brother was cooperating with investigators who questioned him at the hospital.

In court documents, police described the amount of ricin found in the vials as “a large quantity” and characterized the poison as a biological weapon.

Officials say they have not found evidence in the motel room or elsewhere of contamination and have downplayed the possibility that Roger Bergendorff posed a threat.

Friends and family members described Bergendorff, an illustrator, as a loner who struggled to pay his bills while moving around California, Nevada and Utah with his beloved dog, Angel, and pet cats.

He had lived in recent months at the Extended Stay America motel several blocks off the Strip while waiting for a freelance job contract.

Erich Bergendorff said his brother was deeply saddened by the death of their older brother in January but insisted Roger Bergendorff had not been suicidal.

“He did say he felt very empty with his loss,” said Erich Bergendorff, who added that his brother was lonely in the hospital and newly distraught after learning that his dog was euthanized after the Humane Society found her starving and without water in his motel room.

Police said a cousin was collecting Bergendorff’s belongings from his room on Feb. 28 when he gave a motel manager a plastic bag containing several vials of what turned out to be ricin powder.

Police later found four “anarchists cookbooks” in the room marked at sections describing how to make ricin. Firearms also were found.

Police said he summoned an ambulance Feb. 14, complaining of respiratory distress. He was taken to Spring Valley hospital, where his condition was variously described later as comatose and unconscious.

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